The climate and geography of Spain, and the style of warfare during the years of Rodrigo de Vivar, the Cid, gave relatively few opportunities for the increasingly important heavy knights of the Christian armies to punch at their full weight. Although often more lightly armoured than was typical further north, these Christian knights were heavier than any Muslim cavalry, although of course when Christian fought Christian there was no such discrepancy. The ideal outcome of any battle was for the heavily armoured knights to charge an already shaken enemy, sweeping them from the field and achieving a decisive victory. Naturally such enemies as could not stand such a tactic tried to avoid that situation in the first place, but the heavy knights remained the elite of any Christian army, and when given the opportunity could win the day.
All four poses in this set are carrying lances or javelins - the second pair having ring hands to take these separate weapons. Such weapons are fine, and particularly suited to a charge, although perhaps a figure using a sword would have been welcome too. Such a weapon could successfully be placed in the hands of the last figure in the first row, although no separate sword is included on the sprue. This last figure is also notable for having no sword in his scabbard, which, while working well if he is made to carry one, looks odd (but frankly hard to notice) if he carries anything else. The spears and javelins are of a good length (actually the spears are at the top end of the suitable size range) and fit the ring hands very well.
In many respects the apparel of these men is little different to that of knights in France, England or Germany, as all wear full mail hauberks. Most of the helmets are of the classic design with nasal guard famously depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry, but one has a kind of early full face mask which is known to have been worn in Spain at this time and marks an early step on the road to the full helm of later years. The kite shields are typical of the time, as are the round examples, at least in this part of the world, but more unusually most of the figures are wearing a form of surtout over their mail. What primary sources we could find all showed uncovered mail, but several modern artists have regularly depicted such covers for the armour. The introduction of this garment into Europe is generally attributed to the Crusades or, more precisely, exposure to the Muslim world where such garments were common and often necessary. While the battles of the Cid predate the first crusade, the obvious proximity of Muslim culture to Spanish Christians, and the widespread intermingling that occurred between the two communities, would suggest that Spanish knights may indeed have been ahead of the wider European fashion in this regard, so these figures would seem to be quite authentic.
The four horses, which are the same as those in the corresponding set of Spanish Light Cavalry but a good deal larger, all have fairly elaborate saddles with quite high pommel and cantle. This is quite appropriate for heavy cavalry, particularly when they charged with couched lance, so these all seem fine. On a less happy note however we were not impressed with the quality of the sculpting of the animals themselves, which might be described as adequate rather than attractive or particularly natural. We were even less taken with the poses, which apart from the last one look fairly unrealistic or simply awkward.
The riders fair rather better, for while not perfect they are nonetheless pretty good with superior detail and good proportions. We found almost no flash on any figure, and both man and horse can be joined easily enough. The human poses are pretty standard fare, which is no bad thing, so both a charge and a more leisurely march can be represented.
This is a pretty good set of figures, although we were not taken with the horses, which are naturally a major element of any cavalry set. The Cid himself could be represented by any of these models, although with only four poses there are limits to the kinds of display that can be achieved. With some particularly Spanish elements this is a much needed set which also has potential for use in other areas and epochs, and is therefore a useful addition to the world of medieval figurines.